The Real World?

When I was a junior in high school, I joined the drama club.  It was actually a joint venture between the all-girls Catholic school I attended and the all-boys Catholic school a mile away.  I volunteered to do technical work and was quickly appointed Prop Mistress.  A freshman from the boys school was appointed Stage Manager.

While working with this frosh, I learned that his mother was a secretary for a local professional theater company in which our drama director/moderator often starred and assistant directed.  This boy had started out as a child actor with the company, singing and dancing, but had switched to technical work (set building, follow spots, and prop placement) upon hitting puberty.  Theater had been his summer job for most of his life.

Well, one night during the rehearsal a couple of senior boys in the group started doing something unprofessional.  I can’t remember if they were messing with the sets or if they were supposed to be helping with something and had decided to goof off instead.  Well, my friend the stage manager started to reprimand them, and they weren’t too happy about it.  I believe it turned into a rather heated exchange of words.

I managed to pull the younger man away in a corner to cool off.  Then I felt obligated to set him straight.  I basically told him that he had better be a little more respectful of those guys or they would not hesitate to kick his ass.  Seniors don’t take kindly to freshman telling them what to do, even if it is justified.  “But, but,” he stammered, “In the real world things like that don’t  matter.  Tech people are expected to do whatever the stage manager says.”  I took a deep breath and made the sad observation, “But this isn’t the Real World; this is High School.  They’re two completely different things.”

I was reminded of this incident last night when an acquaintance who is considering homeschooling expressed her husband’s concern that their children wouldn’t be prepared for the real world if they did not go to regular school.  This is a misconception that many people have been schooled into believing.  When you stop to really think about the school structures, you begin to realize that they often do not translate into the real world.  In the real world, I have never had to ask permission to use the bathroom.  I have never been told to do the same work over again to give other people a chance to catch up.  I never been harassed or bullied because of what I wore, how I looked, doing too well, or what my interests are.  I have never been segregated into a group by the year I was born.  And I was never prepared about the importance of economics and the effect it would have on my life, from personal finances to corporate practices to media manipulation.

My hope is that by homeschooling my kids I can give them more real world skills and more real world interactions.  Instead of spending six to seven hours a day in a school building or stuck at home doing homework, I hope they will have more time to volunteer and intern and befriend a wider variety of people.  I disagree with John Mayer.   There is such a thing as the real world and I have my doubts about how closely it matches up with the social world of schools.

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One Comment on “The Real World?”

  1. schooldownthelane Says:

    What a great example of how school is not the real world. I always found that particular argument against homeschooling ludicrous, but your story really brings it home!


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